I abandoned my moral compass and went against my better judgement last week when I streamed the controversial movie, “The Interview”.
If you can somehow ignore the vulgar profanities, stomach the disgustingly immature sexual humor, and look past the overall stupidity of the movie as a whole (I mean, what else could you possibly expect from an R-rated Seth Rogen “comedy”?), the movie actually has a very important underlying meaning.
For those of you who (fortunately) have not seen this movie, let me provide a brief background. The story line follows Dave Skylark (James Franco), a successful celebrity talk show host, and his producer, Aaron Rappaport (Seth Rogen). When Rappaport decides he wants to start covering real news and issues to respect his journalism degree, he and Skylark land an interview with the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un (Randall Park), but can only ask him questions that are scripted and approved by North Korean government. The two are then recruited by the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong-un with a poison strip privately as to eliminate suspicions of U.S. involvement in his death, and so their journey begins. Once they land in North Korea, of course, we meet a very idiotic, whiny Kim Jong-un who is a power-hungry baby with daddy issues. After the incompetent characters waste all three of the poison strips, they decide to shock the world and go off script to expose Kim’s crimes against his country, such as starving his people, etc. This results in a very angry North Korean government, who chase and attempt to kill the main characters, that in turn violently assassinate Kim Jong-un to end all.
Meanwhile, in the real world, the real Kim Jong-un became infuriated by the imminent release of this movie, calling it as an “act of war” by the United States. After the hack of Sony, the movie was no longer set to release in all theaters and could only be viewed in select theaters and streamed through YouTube and Netflix. The real-world controversy brought attention to a movie that would most likely be somewhat unsuccessful otherwise, because it fueled the curiosity of consumers (myself included) when a foreign leader felt so attacked that he threatened the United States.
What I find most intriguing about “The Interview”, even above the real world threats and livid Kim Jong-un, is that it displays the true power of journalism. As Dave Skylark began his internationally broadcast interview with the most dangerous world leader, he pried deep and asked real questions to expose Kim Jong-un’s wrongdoings, completely catching him off guard. He shames the leader and publicly humiliates him on a very personal level in such a way that no war could. The CIA wanted to silently kill off the supreme leader to make it seem as though he died naturally of sickness, but they had no idea that this would have an even greater effect. What a lot of people forget is how delicate a dictatorship really is and how easily it can crumble when the truth is told to the citizens.
I watched a documentary on North Korean life and a Chinese reporter explained that the more Western entertainment that North Korean citizens are illegally smuggling into their country, the more they are learning about how wrong their society is. Most of the world shrugs off North Korea as a society of brainwashed robots who will do whatever their leader tells them to do. One of the most highlighted points in “The Interview” is that they believe Kim is a god who is so holy and pure that he doesn’t even experience bowel movements. They worship him because they don’t know any better. There is an extreme lack of education in terms of the outside world, but there is a team of South Koreans dedicating their efforts to produce radio broadcasts to North Koreans, as well as creating discs loaded with outside world entertainment.
There will come a day when words, not a violent assassination of Kim Jong-un nor a swarm of soldiers, simply words will topple the North Korean society. Following the broadcast and Kim Jong-un death in “The Interview”, a revolution sparked in North Korea after hearing about the horrors and truths of their leader, stripping him of his title of being a “god”. The truth is what set them free, and in the end, they formed a democracy. All that they needed was a nudge, which Dave Skylark, an unlikely journalist, supplied them.
The important thing is not to let atrocities like this in the world occur without acknowledgement. I commend brave journalists who travel to foreign nations in order to expose the injustices of this world. In his New York Times Sunday Review, Nicholas Kristof wrote in a column titled Heroes and Bystanders, “This year, I’m afraid something similar will happen. We’ll hear flowery rhetoric about Auschwitz, Armenia and World War II, and then we’ll go on shrugging at crimes against humanity in Syria, Central African Republic, Sudan and South Sudan, Myanmar and elsewhere.”
Kristof doesn’t want us to reflect on past issues in horror and hypocritically not regard current issues with that same sense of horror, and I agree. For any citizen reading this, it is your duty to become a consumer of news and stay educated in order to better your society, but also to respect those journalists risking their lives every day. Some of the truest heroes come in the form of brave journalists who don’t want to sit idly by, such as James Foley, one of the American journalists beheaded by ISIS for believing in something bigger than himself.
So keep it up, journalists. There will come a day when your words and efforts will pay off because that’s the thing I love most about journalism: it has the power to change the world.
I think Dave Skylark himself said it best: “This was a revolution ignited with nothing more than a camera and some questions. Questions that led a man, once revered as a god among mortals, to cry and (soil) his pants.”
Photo from Movie Pilot